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His warning to President Francois Bozize — a former military commander who grabbed power in a coup in 2003 — came three months after the United States failed to provide adequate protection to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where terrorists killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The State Department relied on local militias, instead of the Libyan military, to protect the consulate.

Mr. Ventrell said that U.S. Ambassador Laurence D. Wohlers suspended normal embassy operations and authorized non-emergency personnel and their families to leave the country immediately.

“We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic,” Mr. Ventrell said.

Rebels have taken 10 towns in the north of the country, sparking panic in the capital city of 600,000 in the southwest along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Earlier this week, protesters in Bangui threw rocks at the French Embassy, accusing the former colonial power of failing to help the government fight the rebels.

Mr. Bozize on Thursday appealed for more help from France, which has 200 soldiers in the country to train the army.

“France has the means to stop [the rebels], but unfortunately they have done nothing for us until now,” he told a crowd in the capital.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.